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Dresden Residency Part I: German Artists in Cleveland

The Ohio and Dresden Residency Exchange is one of the longest-running artist exchange programs in the state. Two artists from Germany live and work in Ohio and two Ohio-based artists have the opportunity to do the same in Dresden, Germany. 

This exchange is culturally profitable on both sides of the Atlantic, and not just for the artists gaining work experience but also for the communities they call home during their stay. Tony Franz, of Zwickau, Germany, and Svenja Wichmann, of Cologne, Germany, come to Cleveland with backgrounds in the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. 

In both cases, the artists were prompted to seek out the Dresden Residency Exchange through friends who completed the residency and spoke enthusiastically about the program. A shared interest in the culture and aesthetics of the United States also played a role in the decision to apply, “And of course, to have the time to put my own work into printmaking,” Katz said. “Especially screen printing and letterpress printing because fonts play a major role in my work.”

Both artists live above Zygote Press  in the ZPASS loft apartments during their residency and count the close proximity as a plus for getting work done. “Here it is really easy to switch between working on the computer and printing because our apartment is directly above the studio,” Franz said. 

During the day, prints are prepared, research is completed, and new techniques are learned. When evening arrives the pair hunker down for some late nights in the print shop. “I start screen-printing the things I have prepared in late afternoon and usually work in the printing workshop until 2 a.m.,” Wichmann said. 

In the first interview in a two-part series, we check in with Svenja and Tony as they prepare for their exhibition at Zygote Press this weekend

What differences and similarities have you noticed between your creative process in Ohio and in Germany? 

Svenja Wichmann: A big difference is that in Ohio there is less distraction from the creative process then in Germany! I live right above the print workshop and have almost no daily obligations like I would have in Germany. That enables me to almost entirely focus on the creative process and only think about my work and how I am going to implement it. 

How has the residency impacted your work? 

Tony Franz: I created some ideas here that will definitely impact my work at home where I can expand them. Also, the feelings I get here and the photos I took will influence my work I think.
Svenja: I have learned (and am still learning) lots of new ways to express myself in printmaking and I have definitely discovered that printmaking is an important artistic medium for me. I have also collected thousands of new impressions and thoughts about the American culture and I think both will have a strong impact on my work as an artist in the future. 

What was your first impression of Cleveland when you arrived? 

Svenja: The first thing I noticed in Cleveland was that it is quite laid out compared to German cities and it looks a lot like a truly American city to me. Another first impression was that there are many very enthusiastic and actively creative people in Cleveland working on various exciting projects in photography, printing, art spaces and exhibition collaborations.

How will you describe Ohio to friends and family when you return? 

Tony: We met a lot of people from the art world that I think is getting bigger and bigger in Cleveland. Life here is not that expensive like in other cities so there are many opportunities here for creative people.
Svenja: A lot of very welcoming and gracious people and a lot of interesting creative projects and initiatives to discover! 

If you could give one piece of advice to the pair of German artists who will participate in the program next year--what would it be? 

Svenja: Don’t be shy and start working immediately. The people here are absolutely great and will help you with everything you need you just have to let them know what you need.
Tony: At Zygote it is great that you can learn techniques that you know in a special new way because the studio is now completely green. So they use oil, vinegar, and Soysolve as cleaners replacing toxic cleaners, and water-based relief and screen printing inks. They are hiring artists to teach eco-friendly approaches to printmaking.

Another piece of advice? Check out Hollo’s PaperCraft—the hands down best paper store they’ve ever been to (thanks to the ever-handy Liz Maugans the artists are getting a first-class tour of Cleveland's most creative spots).

You can view work created by Tony Katz and Svenja Wichmann during their residency in Zygote's current exhibition. A culmination of their time in Ohio, check out 2015 Foreign Affairs: German residency exchange: Tony Franz & Svenja Wichmann during the opening reception Saturday, October 17. 

The OAC and the City of Dresden fund the Dresden Residency Exchange. Zygote Press in Cleveland and Grafikwerkstaat in Dresden house and provide studio space for the artists during their residency. This program preserves the artistic link between the state of Ohio and the German city.




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